It’s that time of year again for photographers: fall family sessions. It’s crunch time. Some photographers make the bulk of their yearly profits right now; others work their butts off in an area saturated with photographers and make enough pennies to cover operating expenses. I was part of the latter group a few years ago, and I burned out.
I couldn’t bear to do another family session. I love photography, I love the creative art of it all, but I absolutely hate the business side—dealing with people begging for cheaper rates and explaining to grandma why I have to charge extra for 45 head swaps.
Then I took my maternity leave to have sweet babies.
While I was on leave, I was taking nonstop photos of my boys and posting them on Instagram (like so many proud moms do). People started direct messaging me to send us free products in exchange for photographs—I was taking photos anyway, and I enjoyed helping other creative moms, so my babies became brand reps. Before I knew it, my little account took off as moms started following our family.
As my maternity leave was winding down and I was about to make the announcement that I was going to start taking family sessions again, I realized that I didn’t want to. My heart wasn’t in it anymore. I said it out loud to my husband one day: I wish I could get paid to take photos of our family.
Influencers were a new thing at the time. The term micro-influencer hadn’t even been coined. So it was total luck that some baby food brand direct messaged me asking for my rates and a media kit. I quickly googled both terms, replied, and they paid me 150 dollars and a 3 month supply of organic baby food for a few photos. I was hooked.
I quickly shifted gears, taking on work from Huggies, Jif Peanut Butter and other brands that I love. Fast forward four years and I now have preschoolers who “model” full time for me, and I’m paid more than I ever made as a photographer.
Influencers make money you guys, and as photographers you have a huge advantage over the mom down the street using her iPhone.
Influencer is a bad word in photography Facebook groups, and I totally get it. I don’t even call myself an influencer, I’m still just a photographer and a mom. I’ve been called a sell-out and a quitter for leaving family photography, but you know what: those opinions don’t matter until they start paying my bills. I think it’s a viable option for so many of you photographers with families or dogs (FYI: my dog has cleared 6k in work this month and she doesn’t whine like my kids).
So, how do you get started influencing you may ask? Start simply: Instagram still has the highest ROI for influencers, so start building a virtual portfolio of photographs you could produce for brands on your Instagram.
I suggest using DSLR photos on your feed, and creating more in-the-moment, fun, behind-the-scenes content for your stories. Take it back to OG Instagram and take beautiful photos of dinner, morning walks, new shoes, and use relevant hashtags. Everyone has their tribe on Instagram, and yours can find you if you use the right hashtags.
Also it’s a social network… so go be social. Comment on accounts with similar interests as you. It’s easy to grow your first 5,000 followers, which puts you in the micro-influencer world. Micro-influencers are being talked about non-stop right now because they often have hyper-engaged followers and can offer a higher return for brands.
Instagram and other social media marketing isn’t going anywhere; it’s fluid and forever changing, but it’s here to stay. You should come to the dark side, we get paid to eat Oreos.